"Wellfleet has the Only Town Clock That Strikes Ship Time, That's In Bells For You Landlubbers..."
"The square bottom Paper Bag Was Invented By Luther Crowell from WellFleet
The unique Wellfleet clock is located in the steeple of the First Congregation Church.
Since it strikes in bell time some explanation is necessary for those not of a nautical bend - landlubbers, me hearties. They didn't have a lot of clocks on the old sailing vessels so it was necessary to tell the sailors what time it was with sound since they couldn't see the clocks. This is what was developed:
One, five and nine o'clock are "two bells."
Two, six and ten o'clock are "four bells."
Three, seven and eleven o'clock are "six bells.'
Four, eight and twelve o'clock are "eight bells."
The half hours are struck by adding one stroke to the corresponding even hours.
So, two bells could either be 1:00 AM or 1:00PM. I guess you could figure out that if it was dark and you heard two bells one could assume that it was 1:00 AM. Unless you were sailing in the land of the midnight sun!
Cape Cod has many fine distinctions that make it stand out from a commonplace world and Wellfleet, as a town name, marks the Cape with a place-name known all over the globe, but in no other locality than on the coast of Barnstable Bay.
It is true that a misguided, homesick, and ill-advised denizen of the Cape, roaming the arid, inland sand wastes of Nebraska, foisted the name of "Wellfleet" on his townsite. But as it has to date remained "unwept, unhonored and unsung," so is it quite unknown to sailors or to the sea, being about fifteen hundred miles from salt water and an immeasurable distance from being appropriately named.
The origin of the name "Wellfleet" has always been a source of lively interest to those who delight to delve in the roots of things historical. So many of our early towns in Massachusetts were named by the Englishmen who settled them for English towns familiar to them before they came oversea, that England is the natural source from whence such a Saxon-English name as Wellfleet might come.
After forty years of desultory search by the writer, the problem is yet unsolved, though a good Yankee guess may not come very far out of the way.
When that part of old Nawsett now Wellfleet was first settled it was noted for the abundance of shell fish in the harbor and creeks, or cricks as then called, and oysters were both especially plentiful and choice.
In England, on the coast of Essex, and not far from the Thames, was a stretch of oyster beds noted in the sixteenth century for their production of oyster different from all other locations and revered by epicures of those far-away times to be the luscious complement necessary to their royal as well as more common plebeian feasts.
But we had best let old John Norden, who in 1594 published the results of his life-long investigations into the history of Essex, tell the story, which here is given verbatim as it appears in his work, "SPECTLI BRITTANNIE PARS."
"Some part of the sea shore of Essex yealdeth the beste oysters in England, which are called Walflete oysters: so called of a place in the sea; but of which place in the sea it is, hath been some disputation. And by the circumstances that I have observed thereof in my travail, I take it to be the shore which lieth betwene St. Peter's chappell and Crowch the bredthe onlie of Denge hundred, through which upon the verie shore, was erected a wall for the preservation of the lande. And thereof St. Peter's on the wall. And all the sea shore which beateth on the wall is called Walfleet. And upon that shore on, and not elswher, but up in Crouche creeke, at the ende of the wall, wher also is an ilande called commonlie and corruptlie Walled (but I take it more trulie Wallflete) Island, wher and about which ilande thys kinde of oyster abonndeth. Ther is greate difference betwene theis oysters and others which lie ypon other shores, for this oyster, that in London and els wher carieth the name of Walflete is a little full oyster with a verie greene finn. And like vnto theis in quantetie and qualitie are none in this lande, thowgh farr bigger, and for some mens diettes better."
From the above we may understand that Wellfleet oysters, which have been celebrated in the English markets for between three and four hundred years, might easily have led the settlers of Nawsett to believe that at Billinsgate, they had a new Wallfleet Oyster bed. The fact that Wallfleet oysters were marketed at Billinsgate, always the big fish market of the Londoners, and that our Wellfleet was at first known as Billingsgate, seems more than a mere coincidence.
The difference in spelling between the names "Wallfleet" and "Wellfleet" is not material. Barnstable; town, county and bay, take their name from Barnstaple on the coast of Devon. Norden, who was a highly educated man of University breeding, and a polished writer, varied the spelling of some words even in the same paragraph as witness "Crowch" and "Crouche," also "Ilande" and "Island." The diversified spellings of many of our common names is so marked as to be beyond comment except to note their wide variety, due to attempts to follow the peculiar phonetics of untaught individuals. the one particular of "Well," who of us has not heard that word pronounced "W-a-a-l," when used as an interjection? All of which makes it seem in- escapable from the theory that Wellfleet on the Cape is named after WALLFLEET on the coast of Essex, England.
Then there are some who believe it was a corruption of "Whale Fleet". In the 19th century there was a whaling fleet that sailed out of Wellfleet.
Then there is the paper bag controversy. Before we had the square bottom paper bag, most paper bags were like envelopes. This bothered Margaret (Mattie) Knight (1818-1914). She was employed by a paper bag factory and invented a new machine part to make the square bottom that we enjoy in paper bags today. Mattie is considered the mother of the grocery bag and she founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company in 1870.
Listen to this, Pilgrim. Another person patented a machine that manufactured square bottom paper bags on February 20, 1870. His name was Luther Crowell and he was from Wellfleet.